June 21, 2010
Posted: 07:39 PM ET
CNN’s Larry King Hosts Special 2-Hour Larry King Live Telethon Monday, June 21st from 8 to 10pm Eastern
Before they’re ready to listen to how they can help, a lot of people want to know why they should help.
Generosity in response to natural disasters is one thing. Calls to aid the victims of earthquakes, hurricanes and tsunamis are almost always answered by an outpouring of monetary donations and other kinds of assistance. But when catastrophes are man-made – when there are individuals, corporations, or governments to blame for creating a problem or making it worse – most people expect those responsible to step up and fix the damage they’ve done.
President Obama says the government is holding BP and all other responsible parties “accountable” for what’s become the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history. He also says he’s “absolutely confident” BP will be able to meet its obligations to the Gulf Coast and to the American people.
BP CEO Tony Hayward says his company will “not rest until we make this right.” He also maintains “no resources will be spared.”
The trouble is: Even if these pledges of “accountability” and “making things right” are completely fulfilled, it’s going to take time. And time is something the Gulf Coast is very, very short on right now. Help is needed immediately – if not sooner. And it’s going to keep on being needed for a lot of years.
Philippe Cousteau – grandson of Jacques Cousteau and CEO of EarthEcho International – has been to the Gulf Coast in recent days. He’s witnessed the disaster there, firsthand, including diving down into the oil-contaminated water. He frames the urgency of the Gulf’s need in the context of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill:
“After the Exxon Valdez event, incidents of domestic violence and suicide rose sharply and this crisis is no different. People and the environment are suffering now. We cannot wait any longer for the government to process these large sums of money and wait for them to trickle down to the people…”
It should be noted: Litigation arising from the Exxon Valdez spill took more than two decades to sort out. So long, many of the claimants died before their cases were resolved and the award checks were written.
The United Way (one of the designated beneficiaries of the Larry King Live telethon) reports it’s already seen a “spike” in calls to its 2-1-1 lines in the Gulf and expects the number will keep climbing.
Says United Way’s Worldwide CEO Brian Gallagher: “The situation in the Gulf has created real and immediate needs for families whose livelihoods have been affected. Calls are coming in now for food, rent and utilities assistance.”
Adds United Way spokesperson Sal Fabens: “There are many people whose lives were devastated by Katrina, who were just beginning to rebuild and are now out of work, or somehow traumatized by a major disaster not quite five years later. The impact on lives is enormous and needs like mental health help are already growing quickly.”
The National Wildlife Federation is another designated recipient of the LKL telethon. “Unthinkable” is the word its president and CEO uses to describe the environmental impact of the Gulf oil spill disaster. Larry Schweiger underscores the urgent need for immediate assistance by noting: “This tragedy is unfolding in the heart of spring migration, nesting season and calving season in the open water.”
While the latest tally of the Gulf wildlife dead – 725 birds, 324 sea turtles, 39 mammals – seems astonishingly small, experts warn the huge size of the spill means they probably will never be able to find more than a tiny percentage of the dead animals. There’s also the fear that the cycle of damage is just starting – there may be far worse to come.
A grim hint of that “far worse” may be found in the 20th anniversary Status Report of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council. In that report, the Council – set up to oversee the restoration of the ecosystem of Alaska’s Prince William Sound – lists only 10 of the 31 injured resources and services they monitor as “recovered.” What’s more, the Council says that thousands of gallons of spilled oil still persist in this once pristine area.
Mark Tercek is president and CEO of the Nature Conservancy – the third designated recipient of funds raised by the LKL telethon. He offers this pointed perspective on the national scope of the impact of the Gulf disaster and why it requires an immediate national response: “The Gulf of Mexico is a national treasure that millions of Americans across the country depend on for their livelihoods, food, recreation and inspiration… we need a comprehensive effort to protect and restore the Gulf, one that is built on innovation, collaboration and a shared vision of a healthy and vibrant natural system. We must act on this now. We simply can’t wait another day.”
President Obama has described the Gulf Coast community as “resilient.” According to Kerry Kennedy of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights, a resident of this community named Louise Bosarge responded to Mr. Obama’s observation this way: “We bounce back. We always bounce back. Bouncing hurts.”
Our immediate assistance in the face of the Gulf oil spill disaster – be it in the form of donating money or supplies, volunteering time, making environmentally responsible choices as consumers or working to raise public and political awareness – won’t heal the hurt right away. But it will help ease it. And it may prevent future pain to our people and our environment.
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